Dynamic Dames by Sloan De Forest

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I felt like I could do anything while reading this book. I felt empowered, I felt free, and I felt as if the world really valued me as a woman. We need more books like this – especially now, in 2019 – we really do. Sure, on the surface this book is primarily about women in the movies, but my goodness, it’s really about so much more than that. This book is about the past, present, and future and what it means to be female in a masculine world. This book is about the power of women and what we’re doing – and have always done – to turn this world around and make it a better place for everyone to live in.

Dynamic Dames shines the spotlight on fifty leading ladies who have made history onscreen (and offscreen too). Instead of moving from film to film chronologically, author Sloan De Forest groups her dames by theme: Pre-Code Bad Girls, Reel Role Models, Big Bad Mamas, Fatal Femmes, Ladies Who Laugh, Women of Mystery, Strong Survivors, and Superheroines.

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Sigourney Weaver & Carrie Henn in ALIENS (1986)

Some of De Forest’s choices will surprise you, others may be completely unfamiliar to you, but most will be of no surprise at all – what’s a book called Dynamic Dames without women like Katharine Hepburn, Greta Garbo, Sophia Loren, and Sigourney Weaver, eh? On the whole, I loved De Forest’s choices and hungrily devoured this book from cover-to-cover in less than 48 hours.

I came away from it wanting to watch and re-watch movies I was both unfamiliar with and films I had seen countless times before. This book made me want to immerse myself in female-centric Hollywood and, chances are, I’m going to be in this hole for quite some time, trying to get my hands on virtually every single film mentioned in this book. I’ve never seen TWO WOMEN (1960) but now I really want to. I’ve not watched THE TERMINATOR (1984) or TERMINATOR 2 (1991) since I was a child, but I’m pretty sure I’m ready to delve into that gritty, dangerous, sci-fi world again. I re-watch movies like THE THIN MAN (1934) and ADAM’S RIB (1949) constantly, but what’s one more time? Surely I’ll appreciate these films even more now that I’ve read Sloan De Forest’s awesomely empowering book.

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Rosalind Russell in HIS GIRL FRIDAY (1940)

The world needs more books like Dynamic Dames, so kudos to Turner Classic Movies (TCM) and Running Press for producing such an amazing piece of art for our bookshelves and coffee tables. Here’s an idea: leave this book out somewhere prominent in your home and wait for one of your family members or guests to spot it. Let it start a conversation and let it be the catalyst for endless (friendly) debates concerning powerful onscreen female roles, incredible actresses who have changed the face of cinema, and what you all think is to come.

Will the world see another Scarlett O’Hara on their screens in the near future? Will we be blessed with another spitfire like Hildy Johnson sometime soon? And what about someone just like Carmen Jones? Something tells me we haven’t very long to wait.

This book review of Dynamic Dames was published for Raquel’s #ClassicFilmReading challenge.

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